The Game & Watch series was Nintendo's first real foray into the world of portable video gaming. Designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who would later mastermind the grey-brick Game Boy we all know and love, these handheld electronic games featured an LCD display, a tinny speaker, and just enough buttons to complete the main objective, which differed from game to game. Nintendo has re-released most of the original Game & Watch titles over the years via the Game & Watch Gallery and Collection series, but with the popularity (not to mention profitability) of short, quick-play games on the DSi Shop, these classic titles are now seeing new life as DSiWare.
Note that Chef has already seen ports to the Game Boy Color and Advance as a part of Game & Watch Gallery 2 and 4; if you already own or have played this game as a part of either collection, there's nothing new here in terms of gameplay. During the game, you'll control the titular character as he attempts to keep three different ingredients in the air at the same time with his trusty frying-pan. Each ingredient flips into the air at a different speed, however, and there's also a mischief-making cat that will spear the ingredient to the far left at random, holding it in mid-air for a moment to skew the rate at which it falls. Simply maneuver the chef beneath each ingredient and he'll catch and flip it automatically. Allow an ingredient to fall to the floor, and all motion will halt while a thieving mouse spears the food and runs off with it; once he's finished, the game begins again where you left off. Three such misses, and it's game over – your score will be saved to the High Score list, and you'll be given the option to begin a new game.
As with other Game & Watch titles, there are two different Game options. In the case of Chef, Game A is normal, with only three ingredients, and Game B provides more challenge in the form of a fourth ingredient to keep in midair. It doesn't sound like much, but when you're floundering about with just three ingredients in the air, that fourth is a killer. Should you have trouble getting past a certain point in the game, there is a Score Select option where you may set the starting score in increments of 100, up to the highest score earned. Any high scores you attain will not be recorded while playing in Score Select mode, but it's great to be able to practice playing the game at the higher speeds that accompany higher scores.
These games were designed to be played during a train commute in order to waste time, and waste time they do – as repetitive as it is, Chef is a surprisingly addictive little game. You'll find yourself coming back to surpass your best score again and again, and each attempt happens so quickly that you won't believe an hour has flown by and you're still playing it. As basic as it is, you'll more than get your money's worth out of your 200 points.
If you never had the chance to play any of the original Game & Watch handhelds, this is an excellent way to experience them without hunting them down at garage sales or on eBay. Nintendo took care to reproduce the look and feel of an LCD screen, even going so far as to provide the familiar shadows of each different image lurking in the background as you play. The transitions between images as you move are absolutely flawless. The LCD experience doesn't stop at the visuals – the sounds as you play are the familiar boops and bleeps of old, and the metronome tick droning in the background is as compelling now as it ever was back in the day. These are no mere remakes; those who grew up with these kinds of games will get a kick out of the level of authenticity Nintendo has packed into the DSiWare versions.
Chef provides frantic, old-school pick-up-and-play fun that's just as addictive now as when it was first introduced, and along with the other DSiWare Game & Watch titles, Nintendo has used the better graphics and sound technology available now in order to make as authentic an LCD handheld experience as possible on your DSi. Granted, LCD handhelds aren't terribly popular anymore for a reason – the games are unavoidably repetitive and extended play becomes boring. However, if you completely missed out on this game in its GBC and GBA incarnations and have never played one of the originals, this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the very beginnings of Nintendo's handheld gaming history.